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Has anyone experienced a slowly failing aquarium heater? (vs. abrupt complete failure)?

I have an Eheim 250watt submerged heater in the 30 gallon sump for a 90 gallon freshwater tank. For the last year it has reliably kept waters at 79-82 degrees (exactly where I want it to keep my community tank of tapajos and clown loaches happy and ich-free). The main heater has to be set at 85 degrees to achieve this; it's on some of the time but not always, at this setting. 

During the last week my tank's temp has suddenly shot up to 86 degrees. At first I thought this might be due to our heat spell and a warmer house (Though this has not occurred on previous much longer heat spells). But I checked the heater and it's still on and heating even at this temperature, and the sump chamber's water felt very hot. So I tried shifting the heater's setting down in 3-5 degree increments. It did eventually turn off, but not until I cranked it down to a 70-degree setting.

Has anyone had an issue like this? I've had a heater fail before (stuck on on, cooked 50 gallons of fish, very traumatizing childhood experience!), but not intermittent behavior....

Any suggestions would be welcome! 

 

 

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Yes, it slowly started to fail by dropping temps, and then all of a sudden it crashed fully and over heated which killed a bunch of fish. I would replace the heater ASAP to stop the possibility of another event. 

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I would highly recommend getting a temperature controller, like an inkbird. Adds a safety net so you hopefully don't cook your tank. Plus it can alert you if temps are too high or low (you can customize it). I wish I had known about those a decade ago when I lost all but one fish. That made me quit until last year.

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On 6/28/2022 at 1:37 PM, Emily in Everett said:

Good to know. On the subject of such heaters, what would be a good, moderately priced replacement model? I'm reluctant to replace with the same kind, since it only lasted a year before this potential malfunctioning.....

I dont really discriminate on price, more on reputation. I go through looking for heater reviews online and base my options on those. I also check out YouTube videos and such as to get a good idea from creators. What I personally do it use smaller heater than recommended as to help further prevent the issue of over heating. Rather than having the heater go on and off every day, its pretty much running all the time to the point where it can't over heat and only turns off when it gets hot out. I am not very experienced with sumps and so I do not know how it could affect what is a needed heater wattage. 

 

Looking into an ink bird or some kind of temp regulator that turns off the heater completely could be a good idea, like what @Melkor said above, but I dont know too much on those as well. 

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On 6/28/2022 at 1:58 PM, Emily in Everett said:

All good ideas, I've considered the double thermometer option. My frustration with the reviews is it seems like EVERY possible model has at least one person who's experienced a traumatic fish-cooking incident with it. 

 

Yeah, manufacturing errors can never be 100% absent, so I look for overall scores and the reviews that are based around longer periods of time, rather than the people that do a review after a week. I dont even want to risk a manufacturing error, that's why I do the smaller than recommended. 

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I second the inkbird temperature controller - I love mine, it makes it so much easier to manage the temperature in the tank. I set the temperature of my heater a little high but not too high (85) and then the temperature of my inkbird where I want it. The inkbird is set to 81F (the temperature I want the tank at) and it keeps the heat at 81 +/- 1 degree. If for some reason the ink bird fails, the sensor on the heater will shut off as a back up. Redundant sensor, less likely to boil my (warm water) fish. ETA: It also has an alarm built in so an alarm will go off if the temperature goes above 86 or below 78 (my settings).

As far as heaters, I went through six different brands recently (ugh it was a nightmare) and settled on the Fluval M series. However, right now I'm eying the aquarium co-op heater because it's all black and so is my background. FWIW, I think the life expectancy of a heater is usually only a few years before the sensor starts acting up, but that's based on observation of others on the internet, not personal experience. I tinker too much with my tanks.

Edited by aelphabawest
alarm info.
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On 6/28/2022 at 1:37 PM, Emily in Everett said:

Good to know. On the subject of such heaters, what would be a good, moderately priced replacement model? I'm reluctant to replace with the same kind, since it only lasted a year before this potential malfunctioning.....

Something with an LED temperature controller. Either the ACO ones or the Fluval E series is what I would suggest.

Keep in mind, some are designed for +/-1 degree some are designed for lower tolerance. There is also the matter of ambient air temp vs. the wattage you specifically require. 

Things to look into, that's all. Specifically check the manual for whatever you buy to see what the ambient air temp difference can be. (Usually +10 degrees difference is the design spec for a good heater)

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On 6/30/2022 at 5:10 PM, Pepere said:

Which Inkbird model might be reccomended?

I really dont see much need for the wifi model myself.

 

does anyone have a link?

Any with an aquarium probe. There are ones with 2 heating outlets, and ones with 1 cooling, 1 heating. So whichever of those types that works with you.

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